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Thread: Separation anxiety?

  1. #1
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    Default Separation anxiety?

    Hey everyone.

    So I graduated from Uni in December last year, and have basically been home every day since then (excluding going out/shopping/friends/etc.).
    I just started full time work on Monday, and up until today thought everything was going pretty cruisy. Our dog was pretty used to being home alone before December because I was at Uni every day and my partner at work.

    But today I got home and instead of going to play outside with her like I normally do, I took her to the toilet and went to feed her because my partner & his Dad are installing the shed out the back.

    When I fed her, she started eating super excitedly as she usually does, then as soon as I went to walk away (she has a pen behind a baby gate for when we aren't around), she started doing an extremely high pitched whingey and loud bark, and jumping at the gate. She's never done this before and usually always focuses on food over us. I've heard this could be a form of separation anxiety.

    Does any one have any experience in dealing with this? I'd like to nip in the bud before it gets any worse.

    I was going to go get an adaptil diffuser/collar, but I've read and heard mixed things. I figure like anything, it could work for some dogs and not for others. But I'd also like to do some form of training/distraction techniques/anything else I can to make her more relaxed.

    As far as I'm aware she doesn't have any other separation anxiety behaviours (no destroying furniture/walls/etc.).

    I'm a full time RN, I work all day and completely random shifts (AM/PM/Night/Any day). My partner does 4 days a week between Friday and Monday. This coming week I'm on Monday - Friday.

    I think on Monday I'll probably try and set up a camera or something to record her while we're gone.

    She also doesn't seem to mind when we're actually leaving. Does not whinge/cry/back, etc.
    Last edited by Saruh; 08-07-2015 at 07:47 PM. Reason: Addition

  2. #2
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    When I fed her, she started eating super excitedly as she usually does, then as soon as I went to walk away (she has a pen behind a baby gate for when we aren't around), she started doing an extremely high pitched whingey and loud bark, and jumping at the gate. She's never done this before and usually always focuses on food over us. I've heard this could be a form of separation anxiety.
    Think she might be training you?

    What did you do next? And what did she do?

    If you decide to try ignoring the yelling - you will probably get something called an extinction burst ie MORE YELLING until she figures out it is pointless and then she will stop. And then you can go reward her.

    But if you've been putting up with it and putting up with it and then going to her WHILE she is yelling... you reward extended yelling and the extinction burst will go for a long time because she has learned that when she wants your attention - all she has to do is yell for longer.

    I usually take my dog straight out the back for toilet when I get home. I don't play with her or do the excited You're home greeting. Mostly cos I don't want her jumping on my good clothes. I have been taking her out the back on lead because she's wearing the cone of shame (still) and if she decides to do yard patrol she can hook it in the dirt and then things get messy - not to mention I don't want to encourage (allow) bolting round the yard barking like a mad thing. I used to allow it (cos we had a cat problem) but she doesn't need to do that now - the cats have learned to leave if the back door or side gate opens.

    You could also try the "I forgot something game" - go out, come back, go out, come back, go out, come back - so she's never really sure you're leaving really... ie no need to get excited when there is food to be had.

    It is really nice that she seems to prefer you to food now... that could be very useful when there's something nasty on the ground down the park.

  3. #3
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    Yeah I'm not sure. As I said this is the first time she's done it.

    Normally when we get home the first thing we do is toilet her. The next is take her outside to play/exercise in the back yard. We take her outside in the back yard because she's such a high energy dog and it gets dark so early at the moment, and also because we leave for work at 6am, and have to exercise her BEFORE we feed her again so she doesn't end up chucking it all up from running around.

    But this time I couldn't take her out the back so just toileted & fed her, and yeah she basically just ignored her food and yelped when I tried to leave.

    We've never rewarded barking/yelling/whining. We've just ignored her when she's done this sort of thing (mind you she's almost 3, and hasn't done anything like that since she was a puppy).

    Because this is the first time she's done it and the situation (i.e. going from having someone home all the time to no one home all day, ignoring her food to yelp when I tried to leave), that's what makes me believe that she's got a mild form of separation anxiety. As much as I don't want this to escalate or for her to continue the behaviour, I also want to make her more comfortable without us around. So rather than just ignoring the yelping & rewarding when she doesn't do it, I'd like to put some form of intervention in place (or multiple interventions) to make her more comfortable when no ones home.

    I was thinking along the lines of any sort of interactive toys (she's a lab x staffy who likes to destroy toys, while she never chews furniture/walls etc. she'll go through anything less than kong/planet orbee status in seconds, so interactive toys become extremely difficult), the adaptil collars/diffusers, maybe a kong wobbler (although she had one when she was a puppy and magiced it open and chewed it apart), playing music when we're not home (?), really anything else anyone can recommend along the lines of making her comfortable when we aren't there.

    I was also wondering about some sort of training in regards to us leaving. Maybe something like leaving for an hour to see how she goes and coming back, then leaving for two, leaving for three etc., but the only issue with this is because I've only really witnessed that one behaviour I'm not sure how I'd go about monitoring it to see if she improves. Also the fact that there will be days where we'll both inevitably be gone for 10 or so hours, how will that affect the training? Although that doesn't happen a lot (because half the time I'm off when my partners on work, and vise versa, and I have a lot of afternoon shifts and my partner only does AM shifts so a lot of the time at worst she'll only be alone for four hours) it is inevitable from time to time.

    I don't think she prefers us to food, this is the first time it has happened and when I fed her dinner she still ignored me like usual haha! Maybe because she knows I don't leave again at that time? She's also not usually concerned at all when we leave, even in the morning when we're getting ready for and leaving for work. It's literally just that one behaviour that's made me concerned. Maybe I'm overreacting, but considering the fact she's basically been with someone 24/7 for 9 months and now all of a sudden she has no one and then this behaviour occurred it seems highly likely that separation anxiety might be a factor.


    Oh! Also. She threw up twice on Tuesday night, so that is day two of being alone all day. In the past when we've gone through big changes (like when we moved house, and when we went on holiday for two weeks (my partners brother looked after her)) she tends to throw up and I have to feed her rice and chicken. This is totally an anxiety thing as she is a very anxious dog and it is normal for her, 100% not a medical issue, I've been to the vet about it. Mind you, vomiting twice is actually pretty mild for her.

  4. #4
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    Also.. Sorry my posts are so long!

  5. #5
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    "she tends to throw up and I have to feed her rice and chicken" er, define 'have to'. Have to, is a comment you here from well trained owners like me often. Beware.

    Hyacinths suggestion of 'Ive forgotten something' and returning, so dog has no idea if you are going for 20 seconds, half an hour, all day long etc. is a good one.

    but things for dogs who are anxious on separation that can help:

    Radio left on
    marrow bones > this single item, has prevented all my dogs being destructive and bored when i am at work, and excellent brilliant white teeth and oral hygiene to boot.
    freeze a cola bottle filled with stock. In morning, stab it a few times, and leave it with the dog.
    skip dinner, instead hide the meal all around the garden/home for dog to 'find' for itself.
    Those toys that are puzzles are great for dumb ass dogs that cant figure them out. Ive never owned a dog that doesn't know how to and can, rip them open in seconds. Clearly, i have very intelligent dogs lol
    a tyre hung up a tree, with food in it. My GSD will climb the peppercorn to get this. Even a low valued treat, become high valued treat if its in a tree to him.
    Hide things for dog to find
    blow up balloons, tie them, and leave with the dog
    get another animal
    get a teenager local to dog walk for you after school
    I tend to keep multiple dogs, so separation anxiety is something ive not dealt with. Bored dogs who are destructive however, i have. so this is what i do to occupy them when i am away.















    Bubble blowers on timers during the day
    Last edited by bernie; 08-08-2015 at 08:12 AM.

  6. #6
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    I didn't read everything everyone wrote above but the main thing I see different in this sceanrio is your hubby and dad build out the back. Loud noises can lead to stress which can lead to separation anxiety.

    Have they been building when you are/aren't home? How has your dog handled the noise?

  7. #7
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    Ok, I've read it all now :P

    How long have you been back to full time hours?

    I wouldn't be too concerned at this stage. Yes, your dog exhibited a form a separation related behaviour but this could have been due to her usual routine being upturned. Has the behaviour continued over the last four days? If not then it is possible that the excitement of having you home and then the jumbled routine mixed with you leaving caused a small issue. If you are unable to leave her while eating, but she is fine whn you leave the house for work etc, then it may be as simple as feeding her an staying close then over a preiod of time, each time you feed her you fumble around the area gradually further away each meal until she is fine without you there.

  8. #8
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    Hey everyone,

    (I'll make this one short).

    First off - Bernie, I hope you're not insinuating that I'm not a 'well trained' owner ? I'd like to believe I am, my dog behaves extremely well and I've had dogs my entire life, and my girl is now almost 3. Anyway, back to the issue..

    In regards to vomiting - she only did it twice & in one day this time, and I didn't feed her chicken/rice. She didn't do it again. May have been just an upset tummy but with her I'd say it was probably anxiety due to the routine change.

    I'm not a big advocate for the use of marrow bones, especially in dogs that are heavy chewers (like mine). She'd go through a marrow bone in a few hours and they have an extremely high fat content that can cause acute pancreatitis (among other things). But whatever works for you. Everyones opinion is different in regards to feeding dogs bones.

    With the puzzle toys I reckon my dog would also rip them open quite quickly haha. No chance.

    My dogs not destructive luckily . Although she does have a large amount of toys to keep her occupied.

    Anyway. I came to the conclusion a day or two after posting this that it's not actually separation anxiety. I believe that as ThePawfectionist suggested, she was not so much concerned about us being away. I think she was annoyed she didn't get to go play outside!

    We still haven't had any other issues with her and this one problem seems to have resolved. Stressed over nothing! But still, I'd rather be safe than sorry.

    I've decided to start putting her kibble in kongs & freezing it with some wet food anyway when my partner & I are both on day shifts so she can excavate for her food. Not really in relation to the separation anxiety, just for funzies! I don't really like wet food. I'm much more keen on kibble to protect her teeth, but I figure once every few days can't hurt too much.

    I've also gotten her a new kong wobbler. Unfortunately I underestimated her when she was a pup and she some how magically unscrewed her previous wobbler and gave it a good chew, so will definitely be observing her when she's using it this time around :P.

    Thanks again for your replies everyone!

  9. #9
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    Hiya Sarah
    First off -
    Bernie, I hope you're not insinuating that I'm not a 'well trained' owner ? I'd like to believe I am, my dog behaves extremely well and I've had dogs my entire life, and my girl is now almost 3
    . Anyway, back to the issue..

    you have your wires crossed, probably due to lost in translation.
    A human, gets trained by their dog. This is not supposed to happen, it should be the other way around. I, and many other dog owners/trainers, can easily be manipulated by a smart dog, so that it is us that get trained. ie. dog whines at gate, you return to dog. Dog trained you to come when it called and release it.

    it was intended with a friendly spirit. Taken with a huge dollop of offense it seems. *sighs*
    written communication can create this easily.
    Last edited by Hyacinth; 08-14-2015 at 12:14 PM. Reason: put quotes in

  10. #10
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    I hope you're not insinuating that I'm not a 'well trained' owner ? I'd like to believe I am, my dog behaves extremely well and I've had dogs my entire life, and my girl is now almost 3.
    We were insinuating that you are well trained owner and the training is being done by your dog. If a post gets you feeling a bit defensive - maybe read it again to check. Mostly when people come asking for advice - we suggest they do something different to what they were doing which can feel like they're being attacked but... repeating the same behaviour and expecting different outcome - is one definition of "insanity" - so we're going to suggest you do something different. You can do this for yourself. If things aren't working how you want - what can you change or do differently?

    Even Steve White - famous police dog trainer in the USA sometimes feels like he's the trainee not the trainer with some dogs. Dogs are trying to train you 24 hours a day - what does the dog need to do in order for the naked monkey to put out the good stuff - and you need to be mindful of this. Ie be very careful of back chaining ie dog being naughty then good to get your attention then your good stuff. YOU are being Trained BY your dog.
    Reconciliation at Both Ends of the Leash | ProActive K9

    Although she does have a large amount of toys to keep her occupied.
    Suggestion - she has a few toys every day and different ones, ie take away 6/7ths of the toys, and then give her a different set of toys each day so they always have a bit of novelty value. Just for the funzies.

    Not really in relation to the separation anxiety, just for funzies!
    Funzies is good. It's called "environmental enrichment" for your dog. If you want to google more about it. Bored dogs are trouble. Funzies are good.

    I mix kibble with unflavoured yogurt and freeze that, water works too. If you want to add flavour you can mix with stock or a quarter teaspoon of vegemite or other black breakfast spread, mixed in a cup of hot water.

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